recently traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan as a part of
a peace mission where he represented a number of organizations,
including the Institute for Individual and World Peace, the
Goodworks Foundation, the Heartfelt Foundation, and the Movement
of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA). John joined David Morton
and Holly Engelman in their vital mission to distribute wheelchairs
and crutches to the people through the sponsorship of the
Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA).
of Wheels for Humanity with Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, Ex-President
of PIMA and Director of Health Services Afghanistan, Kandahar
(front row starting second from left: David Morton, Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman,
John Morton, Holly Engelman)
The Spirit of the journey was captured in John's
from John Morton
(excerpted with permission from the New Day
Herald website www.ndh.org)
was D-day on our trip. We started at about 8:30 a.m. heading
from Chaman, where we are staying, to the Afghan border.
the way we visited a PIMA clinic and then onward through the
border. I emphasize "through" as there was no customs
check whatsoever. It was a bit like going from one side of
Wichita to the other when Wyatt Earp was working there. We
noticed a few of the local fellas packin' their Kalashnikov
rifles and that decorum continued throughout the day.
stopped at another new PIMA clinic in Spin Boldak. The locals
were patiently lined up outside waiting to get some medical
attention. This clinic is the first professional hospital
ever to be located in this area and includes a fully functioning
operation room and radiology lab. I was probably the most
popular guy as I was kept busy taking some Polaroid photos,
which I gave to the locals, particularly the younger ones.
Holly Engelman & David
Morton at distribution center in Spin Boldak
Spin Boldak we left a marginally paved road for a dramatically
carved, rocky and unpaved stretch of road for the next couple
of hours. The road rally was on as we sped at top speed, top
being the operative word as some of us over the rear axle
made repeated contacts with the ceiling and our heads. We
were treated to views of relatively uninhabited and sparse
terrain with many substantial rock formations on the horizon.
In the distance we could see snow capped mountain ranges to
the north and east.
of commercial outlets along the way, we found the occasional
roadside makeshift stands selling food, auto parts, and staples.
There were also frequent young children squatting roadside
with their hands cupped and extended to beg for alms.
we moved closer to Kandahar we saw many indications of the
war. We crossed a couple of severely damaged concrete bridges
from the recent bombing. We passed burned out vehicles and
structures and several places with craters in the road. As
we entered the outskirts of Kandahar we saw more and more
of the remains of war. There was rubble in several places
which we are told came from the bombing. And we saw American
soldiers inside the gate of the Airport.
center was like a large bustling bazaar, crowded with people
and vehicles competing for space. We were certainly noticed
by the locals who often waved and smiled while some approached
us to interact.
started with the aftermath of the most rain in 6 years, cloudy
and cold, turned to warm and sunny. We had a nice lunch in
the courtyard of a PIMA facility in Kandahar. I had been carrying
a satellite phone that Verizon had made available complimentary
throughout the trip, but had not been able to connect. I tried
it yet again from Kandahar and "bingo" soon was
talking with John-Roger (IIWP's founder and president) just
after 1:00 a.m. his time in Los Angeles. While we had him
on the phone we planted a Light column and I repeated to the
video camera, capturing the moment, the invocation prayer
that John-Roger told to me long distance. That was a spontaneous
and unplanned event and felt about the same as calling from
the moon. David, Holly and I couldn't resist the opportunity
to wake up some family and friends and leave some messages.
It was quite a delight.
later visited a main hospital in Kandahar that PIMA has taken
over in order to reestablish the staff and infrastructure
needed. As we were approaching the main entrance we noticed
that the guards, who are typically not in any kind of uniform
but merely distinguished by carrying the Kalashnikovs, were
rather excited and talking with our hosts about something.
We found out that some of the Taliban fighters were holed
up in the building next door, refusing to surrender. They
were concerned for our safety so we were quickly escorted
to what they considered was a safe haven.
the PIMA staff continued on a tour of the hospital, David,
Holly and myself waited out front and soon were having fun
with our Kalashnikov-carrying friends who look indistinguishable
from their Taliban foes. When our PIMA escorts came out from
their tour to find us fraternizing and taking photos with
the Kalashnikov guys, they were somewhat flabbergasted. I
suppose it was a bit like seeing the lions and the lambs lying
our way back to Chaman, a 3-hour plus trip, we noticed the
dust had picked up measurably. In checking, we found that
we had been spared a great deal of dust thanks to the most
rain in 6 years from the night before. One rather funny sight
was the Afghan tank we passed driving up the highway with
some local mujahedin acting like they were out on a hay ride.
As we arrived at a border checkpoint in Spin Boldak we found
out that the border was closed for the night. Hmm, sleeping
in a mini van with 8 of my fellow passengers didn't quite
seem like the quintessential cap to our day in Afghanistan.
Somehow our escorts managed to work out something so the border
reopened for us to pass. And, just as we were crossing the
border into Pakistan, our driver, apparently in an effort
to perform well in the road rally, drove us rapidly into a
pothole. My head made the greatest impact with the ceiling
of the entire day. As much as that blow hurt and stunned me,
nothing could dampen the extraordinary journey to Kandahar.